Saturday 21 April 2018

Steven Reid: I've spoken to Keane, don't underestimate his interest in coaching Ireland players

Steven Reid

Steven Reid

IT'S a brave decision by Martin O'Neill to appoint a high-profile candidate like Roy Keane as his No 2, but I believe it's a good one. Good for Martin, good for Roy and, most importantly, good for Ireland.

I couldn't believe the news when it filtered through last Friday; I'd heard about Martin but the Roy factor was a huge surprise. And I can understand why people are struggling to get their heads around it.

Perhaps Roy doesn't fit the profile of a traditional No 2, a position which often serves as the buffer between the players and the manager.

The assistant boss is usually tasked with putting an arm around the guys who are out of the team and lifting their spirits, in addition to running a lot of the training sessions. Roy's personality is perceived as being unsuited to that job, but it would be wrong to underestimate him.

I live locally to Roy and have bumped into him a couple of times recently, and I've found him very approachable. Perhaps that's more to do with my age, perhaps I'm old enough not to be intimidated by anyone, but I find him easy to talk to.

He knows I've been doing my badges so we've chatted about coaching, the challenges facing ex-players moving into another side of the sport, and the various methods that he's used.

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The mechanics of the job certainly interest him. People are wondering about what level of involvement he'll have in the coaching side of things given that he took a step back when he was manager, but I know he's got his own ideas and I'd expect to see him out there in the middle of it from time to time.

I'm happy to see him back where he belongs. While I'm sure he's enjoying his media work, you always get the sense that he missed the day-to-day involvement on the training pitch.

Okay, the international side of things is different – there's a shorter window to work with people – but for me he's a character that should primarily be part of a football environment.

You could argue that more practical experience of coaching is a necessary skill that he needs to develop if he wants to stay in the game and further his own career as a manager.

At West Brom, Steve Clarke's official title is 'head coach', and I think that's the way forward in management. You've got to be hands on, and this opportunity will allow Roy to learn and adapt.

We could look back in years to come and say that O'Neill has done him a massive favour. But Martin will also be looking out for what's best for the here and now and, clearly, he feels that Roy can bring something to the table.

So how will the younger players respond to Roy? They should be looking forward to it. I noticed a big change in Roy when he came out of international retirement to play for Brian Kerr.

Whereas beforehand he might have disappeared back to his room after dinner, he started to hang around after meal times for a chat with the younger members of the squad.

It was just general bits and pieces, football chit-chat, but it was still a huge lift. He's got a huge presence, an aura, and it was fascinating to listen to him and learn from him.

I always wanted to impress the big names and the boys who've never met either Martin or Roy before will be desperate to get in next week for the Latvia game and make their case – I wouldn't expect too many lads to pull out with injuries, that's for sure.

Everyone in football is aware that O'Neill has a huge ability to inherit a job and give everyone a lift. I've heard nothing but good things about him, and that's what the Irish football team needs at the moment.

It's all gone a little stale since Euro 2012, a bit flat, and we needed an appointment to generate excitement again, to fill the stadium – even for November friendlies – and help make it a fortress.

Martin's man-management skills are well known and, crucially, he should be capable of cutting out the communication difficulties that unfortunately featured too heavily during Giovanni Trapattoni's time in charge.

Maybe Roy will provide a little bit of a fear factor to go with Martin's enthusiasm but the main thing going forward is that we won't have any of that unnecessary confusion.

With Roy, I don't think there is any such thing as grey areas.

Irish Independent

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